The M.A.D. House Artists (Mom And Dad)

Grand Lake Artistic Chaos Foundation

Dr. Robert R. Ball

       Mom has been asked to publish the sermons of Dr. Ball, by the man himself. Entonces, here they are, in a delightful exercise of theological review and enlightenment. In this twenty first century, here is thinking which was first presented in sermons from 1970 through that decade to the congregation of Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas.

       What may be seen as remarkable about these sermons, is the fact that each one was collected, saved, and carefully preserved by a teenager. The sermons presented on this web page were all saved by teenagers at the church, and rediscovered in 2010 at our choir reunion by our fifty-something selves. (Allen Pote was our guest of honor at the choir reunion, but the collaboration of Bob Ball, Allen Pote, and Bill Carl in that first year of the Joyful Noise Choir was what was being celebrated with all men present!) The sermons will come directly from our collections, and will all be as first presented in the MDPC literature racks, staple-in-the-corner versions.

       Dr. Robert R. Ball first came into Mom's life  in the early 1960s when he was called as pastor of John Knox Presbyterian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Some time after the 1965 Jersey Production Research merger with Humble Oil and the traumatic move to Houston, the pastor of the Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, Dr. Charlie Shedd, retired from the ministry. Again Bob Ball was called as pastor to Mom's church. A lucky thing, in her opinion, to continue her theological exploration under such a careful scholar. Dr. Ball is always careful to include his sources in the narration, not only giving the hearer a basis for the idea, but allowing further study by leading her to the work of many other thinkers and theologians. By providing this rich background in ideas, Dr. Robert Ball has always lead his students and congregants into deeper thinking.

"There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds."
--Alfred, Lord Tennyson       

                            A U T H O R I T Y
                                 K N O W N


                                               Scripture: Matthew 7:28-29

                                                               Sermon by
                                                          Dr. Robert R. Ball
                               MEMORIAL DRIVE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
                               Houston, Texas                              Sept. 26, 1971

     YOU MAY NOT be aware of it. You may not believe it when I tell you, but
     the evidence is quite convincing. People spend most of their lives
     struggling with authority figures, of which their parents are only the first in a 
     long procession.

     * The small child is told what he can and cannot eat, what he can and
       cannot touch, what he can and cannot wear, even when he can and
       cannot relieve himself.

          * In case you have forgotten, even a small child sometimes resents that.
            So each one works out his own ways by which his resentment can be

               * But the child must be careful about expressing resentment. Those
                 same authority figures are the ones on whom he must depend for
                 food and shelter and security.

     This process never really changes. There are always people on whom we
     must depend for our livelihood or our sense of well-being. There are
     always authority figures in our lives, and how we deal with them is a major
     influence in the shaping of our personalities.

          SOME people's lives are a picture of active rebellion against all kinds
     of authority. To them the police are the "fuzz," the boss is "old iron pants,"
     the wife is an "old bat," and the government is "big dumb-dumbs." The big
     deal with such people is to assert their independence. Any thing less, they
     say, would be a denial pof personal integrity. So they chart their course to
     do the opposite of whatever is expected of them, Sometimes they are very
     exciting people, but sometimes they are very lonely and discouraged.
     Living in defiance of authority is destructive anarchy as much inside of a
     person's soul as it is inside of a society.

          OTHER people live in compliant submission to whatever may be the
     prevailing authority. They never talked back to mother when they were
     young, and her advice is still the best available - on most any subject. They
     don't talk back to authority figures today, and they condemn those who do.

          MOST of us, I suppose, are somewhere in between, trying to do a little
     of both - a little rebelling and a little obeying. That gets to be frustrating too.
     Dealing with authority figures is a complex and confusing business; but,
     like it or not, there is no way to avoid it.


          Dealing with authority always has been a problem - as evidenced by
     these two verses which Matthew adds as a postscript to Jesus' Sermon on
     the Mount:

                                    "And when Jesus finished these sayings,
                                    the crowds were astonished at his teaching,
                                    for he taught them as one who had authority,
                                    and not as their scribes."

          The scribes in that society represented the full weight  of traditional and
     established authority. They were the interpreters of the ancient and holy law.

     * By virtue of their position, the scribes were the authority figures who let a
       person know whether he could feel good or poorly about himself as a
       human being.
          * If a person obeyed the law, as interpreted by the scribes, he could
            hold his head high, confident that he was a good and proper person.

               * If he did not meet the specifications laid down by the scribes, then
                 he was forced to think of himself as an abomination to both God
                 and man.

     No matter how independent you are, no one really enjoys being labeled a
     "no-goodnick"; but these people had little choice. The scribes had the
     authority and the people the heartache.

          THEN Jesus came along. he stood before them with no visible authority
     at all. He was not backed up by an army or money or any recognizable
     religious credentials. He was not endorsed by the Daughters of the Israeli
     Exodus - or any other prestigious group. From all you could see by
     looking, he had nothing but himself. And yet, when he had finished
     speaking, the people were astonished for he spoke as one having

          THE scribes were the authority figures; but it was Jesus and not they
     who was received as having authority. What an absolute contrast! Their
     authority was external; his was internal. Their authority was imposed, his
     was experienced. It was as if when he spoke, something within them gladly
     reached out to respond - and said, "Yes."

          "What this man says is true! His words resonate within our experience.
     We know that he is talking to us and not about a lot of fuzzy ideas. He calls
     into question much of what we do and do not do, but he does not condemn
     us! On the contrary, we experience his loving concern for us. He wants
     good things for us - a fuller life. As we listen to him, the whole world opens
     up with hope and possibilities. He speaks with authority, no question about
     that; but while the external authority of the scribes seems hollow, his
     authority comes through as authentic."


          WELL, what about us? Frequently you hear it said, "The trouble with
     kids today is that they have no respect for authority." I agree. That is a
     serious problem. But there is an even deeper problem which lies behind it.
     I am even more concerned that many of those in positions of authority have
     lost for themselves.

          DO you know what people do when they lose confidence in
     themselves? Some shrivel up and disappear, but many of us begin yelling
     that much louder.

     * When does a teacher start screaming authoritarian commands around
       the classroom? Isn't it when she feels herself losing control of the

          * When do parents shout things like, "Not as long as you're living under
             my roof, you won't!"? Isn't it when they feel their authority slipping?

               * When do youngsters threaten us with, "If I can't have it my way, I'm
                 leaving home!"? It isn't when they feel confident and strong, just the

     How can we expect the young or anyone else to respect our authority when
     we don't really respect it ourselves?

          THIS was the problem with the scribes. They were the guardians of
     God's holy law - a very eminent and responsible position. But, and we can
     all understand how it happens, they become more concerned with
     maintaining th influence of their own authority than they were with bearing
     witness to the authority of God. When that happens, the authority of God
     becomes only a phrase, useful in beating some poor sinnerover the head.
     With God out of the picture, even though they still used his name constantly,
     the scribes really had no authority. So, as they felt their influence slipping
     away, they really has no authority. So as they felt their influence slipping
     away, they became all the more authoritarian and dogmatic.

          THIS was the difference. Jesus believed profoundly in the authority of
     God. He lived under the authority himself and depended upon it. He never
     made any claims for himself. He wasn't trying to prove a thing. he didn't
     need to get people to bow down before him as support for a shakey ego.
     He was absolutely confident that accepting and sharing the love of God is
     the only way to life, He did not try to impose his convictions on anyone. He
     knew that love accepted as a threat is no real love at all. So when he
     spoke of the love of God, he did it with real love for those to whom he

          WHAT he said rang through as true, and truth has a way of establishing
     its own authority. The people not only heard what he said, they
     experienced the reality of it.


          THIS, it seems to me, is the crucial lesson for us. The kind of authority
     we accept over us is the kind of authority we ourselves become. As I
     thought on this, I recalled a TV show that i saw some ten or twelve years

          A MENNONITE-type religious community was making the long trek
     across America by covered wagon. Along the way, one of the men in the
     group died. His oldest son, a teenager, stepped in as the head of the
     family. He did a man's work and assisted his mother in caring for the
     younger children. He did something, however, I can't remember what it
     was, that was not acceptable behavior for teenagers by the standards of
     that community. Some of the elders in the clan felt that since the boy had
     no father, it was their duty to discipline him; but the boy refused to accept it
     because he felt that he had become a man. It came to a showdown: The
     elders insisting on their authority and the boy defying it. At the crucial,
     dramatic moment, the boy asked them, "Who disciplines you?" A very
     revealing question!

          WITHOUT any threat or intimidation, the people recognized and
     respected the authority of Jesus. He lived under the authority of a personal
     God whose most passionate purpose is that his children love each other.
     Jesus accepted the authority of God, and that is the kind of authority he
     himself became. The people sensed that he was sensitive to their needs
     and their longings. When he spoke, they knew that he understood the
     depth of their pain and the heights of their yearnings for love and respect
     and peace. He was ans authority of love and forgiveness. Because he was
     confident of God, Jesus was able to be confident about himself; and those
     whom he touched felt their lives fill up with confidence also.

          THE scribes on the other hand had gotten separated from God. All they
     had left were the written words of God's law. That was their authority. The
     authority they accepted was a hard and cold and impersonal listing of
     rules, and that's the kind of authority they became. They spent their time
     defending an empty authority in which they had no real confidence
     themselves, and they demanded obedience to it in an effort to bolster their
     own fearful spirits. This got across to the people de-humanizing and
     manipulative, which it was; so the people spent their time resenting and
     resisting the scribes' authority.

          IT'S a crucial question to ask - "Who disciplines you?" It reveals the
     kind if authority we accept, and the kind of authorities we will be in our
     relations with others.

                                                       C O N C L U S I O N

          I THINK that the single, biggest difficulty people have in accepting
     Christ as their Lord it the fear that to do so would be the end of their
     freedom and individuality. The image we have of authority figures is that
     they confine and compel. To commit ourselves to Christ, we fear, would
     stifle our dreams of being significant - forcing us to accept a position of
     weakness, living like children unable to cope with life.

          BUT, to their astonishment, the people there on the Mount found
     something quite different in Christ, and so have millions of others since.
     This Jesus is a different kind of authority figure - one who liberates us to
     live rather than restricting.

          TO ACCEPT Jesus' authority is to accept the authority of what he says
                                  to us, to accept his judgement that we are capable and
                                  responsible persons. He allows us a real confidence in
                                  our ability to live.

          TO ACCEPT Jesus' authority is to become that same kind of authority
                                  ourselves, an authority that depends on love and not on
                                  the pressure we can apply.

          TO ACCEPT the authority of Jesus allows us to live in the fullness of
                                  hope - a hope that depends not on our ability to control
                                  the world and the people in it (which is always a futile
                                  ambition), but a hope that depends on the power and
                                  love of the Almighty God.

          OF all the authority figures I have ever known, this one is the most
     authentic, compassionate, confidence-inspiring, and convincing - this
     Jesus Christ.

from the collection of Pamela Mudd Conlan



January 26, 1969


Sermon from January 25, 1970


 from April 5, 1970


Sermon from June 21, 1970


Sermon from September 6, 1970


Sermon from September 13, 1970


Sermon from September 27, 1970


Sermon from December 13, 1970

 T H E    S E R P E N T    D I D    I T

Sermon from February 14, 1971



Sermon from February 28, 1971

                    FROM ANXIETY

                                                TO FAITH

                                                  Sermon from March 7, 1971


                          Y E S,

                                      N O,


                                                         W O W!

Sermon by Dr. Robert R. Ball

May 23, 1971                          CLICK HERE


Sermon by Dr. Robert R. Ball

July 11, 1971   

Here Come De Judge

Sermon from August 1, 1971

In searching the Joyful Noise library A rare work of musical note has surfaced

This collaboration between the youthful Allen Pote and the young Dr. Robert R. Ball


Do the author and composer remember THIS one?

(All rights reserved by the authors.)


Sermon by

The VERY young seminary intern minister

Mr. William J. Carl III

(Now president of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary)

presented at


Houston, Texas                          August 8, 1971


Dr. Robert R. Ball, Sermon presented September 12, 1971

Seriously But Not Literally

Dr. Robert R. Ball, Sermon presented September 19, 1971


Dr. Robert R. Ball, Sermon presented September 26, 1971



Dr. Robert R. Ball, Sermon presented JULY 31, 2011

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